The Keys of Power
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Examines Transcendentalism as a distinct rhetorical genre concerned primarily and self-consciously with questions of power

Nathan Crick has crafted a new critical rhetorical history of American Transcendentalists that interprets a selection of their major works between the years 1821 and 1852 as political and ethical responses to the growing crises of their times. In The Keys of Power, Crick argues that one of the most enduring legacies of the Transcendentalist movement is the multifaceted understanding of transcendental eloquence as a distinct rhetorical genre concerned primarily and self-consciously with questions of power.

Crick examines the Transcendentalist understanding of how power is constituted in both th self and in society, conceptualizing the relationships among technology, nature, language, and identity, critiquing the ethical responsibilities to oneself, the other, and the state, and defining and ultimately praising the unique role that art, action, persuasion, and ideas have in the transformation of the structure of political culture over historical time.

What is offered hereis not a comprehensive genealogy of ideas, a series of individual biographies, or an effort at conceptual generalization,but instead an exercise in narrative rhetorical theory and criticism that interprets some of the major specific writings and speeches by men and women associated with the Transcendentalist movement—Sampson Reed, Amos BronsonAlcott, Orestes Brownson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, and Frederick Douglass—by placing them within a specific political and social history. Rather than attempting to provide comprehensive overviews of the life and work of each of these individuals, this volume presents close readings of individual texts that bring to life their rhetorical character in reaction to particular exigencies while addressing audiences of a unique moment. This rhetoric of Transcendentalism provides insights into the "keys of power"—that is, the means of persuasion for our modern era—that remain vital tools for individuals seeking to reconcile power and virtue in their struggle to make manifest a higher ideal in the world.



Publié par
Date de parution 31 août 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611177794
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,2650€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.



The Rhetoric and Politics of Transcendentalism
Nathan Crick

2017 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at
ISBN 978-1-61117-778-7 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-61117-779-4 (ebook)
For my mother, for whom melody is beauty and art lives in the hand
And with these forms, the spells of persuasion, the keys of power are put into his hands.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
Series Editor s Preface
Introduction: Eloquence is forever a power -Transcendentalism and the Search for New Gods
1. Eloquence is the language of love : Sampson Reed and the Calling of Genius
2. Jesus was a teacher : The Dialogic Rhetoric of Amos Bronson Alcott
3. To break the fetters of the bound : Orestes Brownson and the Ideology of Democratic Radicalism
4. The transformation of genius into practical power : Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Power of Eloquence
5. The cause of tyranny and wrong everywhere the same : The Revolutionary Nationalism of Margaret Fuller
6. The perception and the performance of right : Henry David Thoreau and the Rhetoric of Action
Conclusion: Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God -Frederick Douglass and the Legacy of Transcendentalism
In The Keys of Power , Nathan Crick examines the work of six nineteenth-century American Transcendentalists who responded to the social upheavals and historical challenges of their time by developing theories of politics and who in turn theorized and enacted genres of rhetoric through which their political visions could be realized. Professor Crick develops his argument with studies of six leading figures-Sampson Reed, Amos Bronson Alcott, Orestes Brownson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau-and concludes with a chapter on Frederick Douglass and the legacy of Transcendentalism. In these figures Crick finds an abundance of reflection, speculation, and inspiration about an American rhetoric suitable to its own understandings of universal imperatives and historical urgencies.
The story begins with Sampson Reed, who in August 1821 delivered an M.A. address at Harvard, calling on his audience, which included a young Ralph Waldo Emerson, to embrace genius and eloquence and prefiguring Transcendentalism. Reed himself later pursued a career not in the university or the pulpit, but as an entrepreneur of the New England pharmaceutical market-the Transcendental hero as a middle-class businessman. Amos Bronson Alcott was a teacher who led his Temple School in defining and enacting a vision of education as the dialogic cultivation of genius and education in a classroom experience that continues to influence progressive educators. For Alcott the true genius was a radical reformer who awakened the faculties of children through dialogue. Orestes Brownson was a restlessly energetic ideological critic and reformer who grew into and out of Transcendentalism in a search for unity. Ralph Waldo Emerson has long been fascinating to philosophers and rhetorical theorists. In his 1943 essay on Emerson in the second volume of A History and Criticism of Public Address , Cornell professor Herbert A. Wichelns wrote with admiration and eloquence that No speaker, it would seem, ever found and held an audience, even a small and select one, as Emerson s essentially was, on terms so independent of it.
Nathan Crick enriches our understanding of the seeming contradiction between rhetorical power and independence of thought and spirit, reading Ralph Waldo Emerson as an advocate of gradualist social change and as committed to an eloquence that sought not for immediate effects but for the articulation of a higher truth that speaks to a universal audience. Margaret Fuller is identified as a committed Transcendentalist who brought to her rhetoric of reform her prescient understandings of the contradictions of unjust power and whose increasingly radical and influential writing on the rights of women, slaves, Native Americans, and laborers was cut short during its developement while she was still a young woman. Henry David Thoreau, younger than the first Transcendentalists, developed early and underwent profound changes in the range and tenor of his thought and action, with a commitment to principles and a keen understanding of how developing technologies challenged those principles while yielding opportunities to the radical thinker for leverage and influence.
Nathan Crick s The Keys of Power is a compelling exercise in sympathetic and critical understanding that will lead readers back to the American Transcendentalists and stimulate them in their own search for principled and effective thought and action, perhaps to redeem the faith of the Transcendentalists that for them too the many tendencies their age could be controlled and directed by eloquence.
The stone foundation of the old farmhouse had been abandoned for so long that a thirty-foot oak tree had stood where the floor should have been. All that had remained were three sides of the foundation constructed out of the large stones that the receding glaciers had long ago dumped over Western Massachusetts. Sometime in the 1800s, someone had cleared the area at the base of what is now Vining Hill Road to build that house and raise a family. The hard labor of many months had built a rock wall that extended from the road about two hundred yards back into the forest. And the original well had remained perfectly preserved in the woods, a cement slab placed over the top to prevent children from falling inside.
I grew up on the other side of that rock wall in a small house my parents had bought just before I was born. The wall represented simply one side of our property. Our house was alone on our side of the street and bordered by three sides by woods. To the west was a pond that was populated by small frogs. Behind our house the woods stretched back a quarter mile until it encountered the next road. And to the east was the rock wall and just beyond that the foundation and the well. During the fall, after my brother, my sister, and I helped rake the yard, we would drag a plastic sheet piled with leaves through the gap in the wall and up a small path and dump them into the remains of the old farmstead. It had become for us simply a place to put nature. We rarely thought much else about it.
The well was a different story. The cement slab had long ago cracked into pieces so that one could actually climb down inside-which one of my brother s friends did as a teenager, considering himself something of a rock climber. The well was about fifteen yards away from the foundation deeper into the woods. As a child this seemed a great distance. Sometimes I would go off by myself to try to find it, never quite remembering its location. The stone slab made the well seem mysterious and dangerous. I would peer down inside to see the reflection of the sunlight off the water below and drop stone pebbles to hear them tick tack on the stone and plink into the puddle. The well was a gateway to something below and yet something above.
However it was the land behind the old farmstead-that stretched back into the woods-that represented our childhood world. When our home had first been built, much of the land was still a field, so much of it having been cleared for so long. Although it was not our property, we made use of it. My mother grew vegetables in a small patch of soil that we would grudgingly help weed in order to crunch on fresh cucumbers. My father, meanwhile, had cleared a place to play football and Wiffle ball during the summer and fall. To get there we had to walk through a short path until we emerged on a slightly inclined field that was completely surrounded by trees. During the height of summer, when the leaves were thick, you could only just barely see the back of our house and no other. We were alone. During the winter, after a thick snowfall, I would often walk through the path into the field and listen to the silence. I remember the silence most of all.
When I returned from college one day in 1992, all of this was gone. The entire property beyond the wall had been bulldozed flat-the field, the foundation, the well. A few months later a square, unremarkable house went up, filled with equally unremarkable people. Eventually my mother sold the house to live at the highest rather than the lowest part of town.
But somewhere under the carpet of grass, the stones of that farmhouse and of that well still exist. Their part in history is not yet over. Just as deep in our memories, the experiences that have made us who we are still provide us a living foundation on which to build our selves, and our world, anew. I still can see my father in his white T-shirt, triumphantly using a crowbar to pull out yet another stone. I can taste the salty burst of a fresh tomato that my mother had sliced and laid out for lunch. I can feel the gritty sting of the gravel after skinning my knee playing basketball in the backyard with my brother. And I can smell the pine needles in the tree that my sister and I had just climbed as part of our Tree Climbing Club. All of this is Nature. All of this is History. All of this speaks the language of Love. For all of it I am grateful.
Eloquence is forever a power -Transcendentalism and the Search for New G

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